How do you deal with writer’s block?
I wish I had a simple answer—a formula—that every aspiring writer could follow when they face a bout of writer’s block. But the reasons for reaching what appears to be a dead end vary and, for me at least, the solution does to. Often taking a break and doing something completely different—like going a walk, running an errand or even “sleeping on it”—will clear my mind and allow it to generate that creative spark and the words soon begin to flow again. It’s strange but the answer to what happens next will often pop into my mind at the oddest times—when I’m at the gym, when I’m in my car or even in the middle of the night—especially when I’m not actively thinking about my predicament. The second thing I would recommend is to take a break from writing and do some research. Often times, the block comes from not knowing the technical aspects of the scene, or the character’s profession, or the physical attributes of a particular location. The research often sparks a number of ideas. I jot them down one by one and in the process, something will click and I’ve found a path forward. It also helps, I think if you know where your story is going—not that it won’t take many twists and turns along the way. But having the big picture in mind allows you to put a problem scene to the side and to focus on a different scene or on a different character for a while. You can always come back to the road block later. Finally, when all else fails, take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine, sit back, take a sip relax and remember the medieval proverb that this too shall pass. Most importantly, save a glass for me!
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
The two best things about being a writer are the commute and the office dress policy! All kidding aside, I think the coolest thing about being a writer is the way the story seems to take on a life of its own. Often times, the characters and the plot itself seem to develop and evolve over time and in ways that I never imagined when I first sat down and began typing. More than once, I’ve found myself reflecting on something a character just did and thinking that I hadn’t envisioned that the character would do something like that when I first created him or her a dozen chapters earlier. Sometimes, a minor character who I created for one scene comes back to play a much more prominent role later on. At times, it feels like the characters and the plot tend to go in their own directions and often I’m left following along as the scribe. Then there are the reviews. There’s nothing better than hearing a reader say, “Wow! That was great! When is your next book coming out?”
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
The advice I heard most often when I started writing was to write every day, for as long as you can, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. While I’ll admit that I don’t always follow that advice, like any skill, writing takes practice and you will become better over time. The second thing is to read everything you can within your genre or chosen field. Learn how writers approach their craft and along the way you’ll learn what an intriguing protagonist, a compelling plot, or engaging dialogue look and sound like. It’s also good to network with other writers. We tend to think alike and, even if it’s to commiserate on the rapid changes taking place within the publishing industry, writers tend to be very supportive of each other. At the same time, I would learn as much as I could about publishing, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing. Most importantly: get feedback. Find a handful of people who will give you objective advice about your writing. You can’t get better unless you know where you need to improve. Finally, hang on to the dream! Perseverance is as much a part of being a writer as a computer and a dictionary are!
What are you currently working on?
My current project is a historical thriller titled The Devil’s Due, which is based loosely on my mother’s father. Family legend held that my grandfather fled Ireland in 1920 with a price on his head by both the British and by the IRA. I spent some time in Dublin and in Limerick researching military archives and the War for Independence, meeting with historians, tracing my roots, and, of course, enjoying a pint or two because, after all, I was in Ireland! The cool thing is that the Irish Army was able to locate my grandfather’s military records and I was able to confirm that he did indeed serve in the IRA during the war. It’s there that the history gets a little murky. He does appear to have left Ireland in a hurry, but as to why, I can only speculate. Still my research paints a picture of a very tenuous time where the temporary alliance cobbled together to defeat the British crumbled easily under the weight of ancient divisions; where suspicion of disloyalty often resulted in death; and where past sins were rarely forgiven. It’s in this context that the story of my protagonist, Frank Kelleher, comes to life…and almost to his death.
How do you get inspired to write?
I write what I enjoy reading. I am an avid reader of thrillers and suspense novels, from authors such as David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, Steve Berry, Michael Connolly, Mike Lawson and Brad Thor. My first novel, In Sheep’s Clothing, is a political thriller and I’m certain that it was influenced by the works of these and many other fine writers. It’s interesting; this book was over 20 years in the making. I actually began writing this book before my daughter was born—and she’s in college now. But as often happens, life, family, career and a host of other things got in the way and the book sat dormant for a long, long time. It wasn’t until several years ago when I had the opportunity to focus on finishing the story. I’m sure all those years I spent away from the keyboard—traveling extensively, relocating multiple times, and even living and working abroad for several years—had a subtle influence on the final story.
How do you deal with writer’s block?